Million Dollar Math Problems

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photo by Shahla Rashid

In 1993, the Hardest Math Problem in the world, according to Guinness Book of World’s Records, was solved after over 200 years. Math professor Andrew Wiles had worked on it secretly because most mathematicians thought it impossible to solve. It took years of work, but he won $750,000 in prizes for solving the problem – which he had first tried to solve when he was 10 years old.

There are more math problems with big prizes attached. In 2000, Seven Millennium Prize Problems were chosen, with a one million dollar prize for each. One was solved in 2002, although the winner turned down the prize money. The satisfaction of proving the problem was enough reward, he said.

That leaves 6 big-ticket prizes for six big problems.

What kind of math problems could be worth $1,000,000 dollars?

It’s not the math you learn in school. Elementary school and middle school math is over 1,000 years old. Even high school math is hundreds of years old. Imagine if our study of art, literature and history stopped at pictures of people in wigs, English with “Thee” and “thou,” and the American Revolution. Or if you were told you need to learn to play music and sports because they’ll be important later in life, but were not allowed to play or spectate music or games, only do scales and repetitive drills. Most school math is drills and scales and rules. Millennium Problem math is music and games, making your own rules.

Mathematicians say their subject is creative, playful, and elegant. It makes and breaks rules, explains patterns, reveals unseen connections.

Find out how Math went thousands of years without numbers.

Learn how not to be tricked by people who know more math than you.

Understand more about probability and how to win at dice and cards.

Stretch your mind around hyperspace and multi-dimensional worlds.

Wonder whether you could solve a Million Dollar Math Problem